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October 17, 2012

Autumn with the Central Park Conservancy

By Ingrid Skjong | Philanthropy, New York

Autumn with the Central Park Conservancy
Leandro Justen/PatrickMcMullan.com

Central Park—one of New York’s most popular residents—has, like most things in this town, had its ups and downs. Constructed in the mid-1800s as the first landscaped park in the United States, it was alternately beloved and feared in its ensuing years. Now it is a piece of the New York puzzle that many are not willing to live without, and the Central Park Conservancy, whose Autumn in Central Park event takes place November 8, has much to do with its success.

“The Conservancy stepped in to care for Central Park during the worst period of neglect in the park’s history,” says Gillian Miniter, chairperson of the evening and a Central Park Conservancy trustee. “Since 1980 they have restored nearly every one of its 843 acres. Even more important, they manage and maintain the park on a daily basis, making sure their improvements are lasting.”

With nearly 40 million people passing through each year, that level of upkeep is no small task. The Conservancy, which raises nearly 85 percent of the park’s annual $46 million operating budget, tends to 21 playgrounds, 55 monuments and fountains and 9,000 benches (not to mention the meadows, gardens and bodies of water). In the last year alone, the organization continued the restoration of the North Woods, reclaimed the last of the park’s seven major lawns and kicked off a project to redo the East Drive’s Rhododendron Mile.

Next month’s event is testament to the landmark’s loyal following, with roughly 500 guests, including philanthropists, Conservancy trustees, donors and park enthusiasts, expected to gather for the celebration. The guest of honor, no doubt, will be at its best. November 8; tickets, from $1,000; tables, from $10,000; Central Park at W. 67th St.; 212-446-2242; centralparknyc.org.